Now playing in theaters is director John Pogue’s supernatural horror film The Quiet Ones. The period pic stars Jared Harris as an unorthodox professor who sets up a series of dangerous experiments in order to explore the dark energy manifested by the damaged psyche of a young girl. Naturally, things don’t go well. The film also stars Sam Claflin, Olivia Cooke, Erin Richards, and Rory Fleck-Byrne. For more on The Quiet Ones, check out some creepy motion posters, the trailer, and all of our previous coverage.
At the Los Angeles press day, I landed an exclusive interview with Olivia Cooke. She talked about making the film, getting cast, how she shot it before getting cast in Bates Motel, when she first realized she wanted to be an actor, the advice Jared Harris gave her while making the movie, how she likes to work on set, The Signal, Ouija, Bates Motel season 2 and 3, that she’ll be filming Me & Earl & the Dying Girl this June, and a lot more. Hit the jump for what she had to say.
OLIVIA COOKE: I didn’t, it kind of just happened. When I was fourteen I was like, “Oh, I’ll get an agent. They’re kind of like Men in Black.” No, they’re not. Then I gotten my first job when I was eighteen. A casting director stood next door to my agency in Manchester, really loved me so she got me my first job. Then it kind of snowballed and kept going and I was like, “Oh my God, I love this. This is amazing.” But I always thought I had to go to drama school and do the right training, then do theater and hopefully get into TV and film somehow, if I was looking. It kind of just happened to me over the last two years and it’s amazing but I never, ever expected this in my wildest dreams. I’m just a little girl from Manchester, it’s crazy.
When did you film The Quiet Ones in relation to Bates Motel?
COOKE: It was two years ago, it’s my third ever job and it was a month before I’d ever even heard of Bates Motel. It was very early on in my career.
What was it like doing this and then going into Bates Motel. Did you learn a lot on this that you applied as an actor.
COOKE: Yeah. I learned a lot watching Jared and Sam, Erin and then Rory but the character is so completely different, like opposite ends of the spectrum—Emma and Jane. You just learn technical aspects like hit your mark, come left, come right, all that kind of technical malarkey. Other than that, I think you just have to rely on your instincts more than anything.
Talk a little bit about the behind the scenes of getting the role. Did you read the script and think, “I have to be this person?”
COOKE: I read the script and I was like, “If I could ever even audition for this role and just be seen that would be amazing,” but they didn’t want to see me because I was too young and the character was originally twenty-four. They cast someone and she eventually dropped out, I think she did another job. So they were like, “Okay. Fuck it, come on. Come in.” And then I just ended up wowing them and then I had my audition with Sam—my third round. It was really awkward, we kind of sat next to each other and I was like, “Oh my God, it’s Sam Claflin!” We went in and did our scene and the last scene, John came up to me—the director—and was like, “Okay, really scare him now.” So I was like, “Fuck. What do I do?” I did the scene and then held his stare and then just let out this piercing scream. He leaped four feet into the air, and thought “I think I’ve got the role.”
Sometimes actors will buy themselves a present when they land a good gig. Did you do that for this role or have you ever done that for any of your roles?
COOKE: No, never. I think I’d buy myself an item of clothing but not like a present that I’ll keep forever, like a present from me to me. No, I’ve never done that.
I think you might be working on something new soon.
COOKE: Yeah, now you’ve put that in my head, definitely.
I’ve known people who buy on the first day of shooting and others on the last day of shooting because it means they got the roll locked down. Some people don’t want to jinx themselves on the first day because—
COOKE: You could get recast. As I know, as I’ve been recast before. No, no. I’ve definitely been on jobs where a person has to go because it just wasn’t a right fit. It just gives you such a reality check. It hits you like, “God, that could happen to me and I’d just fall apart.”
In the last year or two, is there one thing you’ve learned as an actor that really hit you? Or the thing you’ve learned about yourself that you’ve been able to apply.
COOKE: On The Quiet Ones, I kinda went up to Jared and there was a scene which I was finding really difficult to get my head around. I went up to him and I was like, “This is the scene now Jared,” and he was like, “Don’t let them take advantage of you.” You know, just a guy of his accolades saying that to me at eighteen, first film, it definitely stuck with me. And not to use that in a way where you can be a diva about it but just to know your limits, know your morals, know how far you’ll go and how strongly you feel about something. It’s just definitely good to have I think, as a young actress starting out. Because you could just get so patronized and you can get talked into things really easily. It can push you in a way that you really don’t want to go in your comfortability and your morals kind of get swayed a bit. So, just to have that piece of advice very early on was so integral for me and I’m so glad that he said it.
Some actors prefer making two, three takes and some like the Fincher method of fifty, sixty takes. Where are you in that spectrum?
COOKE: As many as it needs. If the director and I think I got in in two or three takes, that’s awesome but if it’s something that’s really hard to work—you need to really work up to it—then that’s good as well. I think anything in order to get the best performance out of us and the character and for the best of the story is great.
Was there one scene on The Quiet Ones that just took forever that you guys were all struggling with?
COOKE: There was one scene where, you know where Sam stops the dog?
COOKE: And then I’m upstairs, spitting up blood. Apparently my hands didn’t look as if there was enough tension in them. I’m grabbing my belly and apparently my hands didn’t look screwed up enough. Every single take John was like, “No, your hands! Your hands!” I’m like, “I’m squeezing my hands as much as I can.” And he was like, “No, I need more. I need more.” That went on for so long, I think I popped blood vessels everywhere because the veins in my neck were completely out and I was spitting everywhere. It was a very long day. I was so out of it by the end of it.
I heard rumors that when you’re an actor and you give it your all, it can actually make you tired.
COOKE: What? Yeah, rumors. This was my first little bit into working on something so physical, so physically demanding. I would’ve done anything. I was so new, I would’ve like, “Yeah I can hold my breathe for five minutes. I can ride horseback.” You know, I would’ve said anything to get that role.
I’ve heard nothing but good things about The Signal, I haven’t seen it yet. I heard it could be scary.
COOKE: A sci-fi, yeah.
And then you also have, Ouija. So you’re sort of doing horror.
COOKE: There’s definitely a path that I followed, unintentionally. I think the characters and the story really spoke to me, so I wanted more than anything to do them, rather than the genre it was in. But I’m filming a comedy in June and I think I’m definitely moving away from horror. It’s time to move on. And I’m so early in my career anyway.
When you’re early in your career, getting roles all the time is obviously key.
For someone who hasn’t seen Season 2 of Bates Motel, how would you say it compares to Season 1?
COOKE: I think it definitely has a different atmosphere because we shot it in the summer. It doesn’t feel as foreboding at first because it’s sunny outside, it’s very much like today but then it kind of juxtaposed it with the crazy stuff that goes on. Relationships get deeper, the story gets more meticulous. It just gets so raw and you just get strangled in all these different ties that tie White Pine Bay and the Bates Motel family together. It’s a crazy ride.
I believe you got picked up for Season 3?
COOKE: Yeah, we did.
So what’s the gift you’re buying yourself now?
COOKE: Oh God, I don’t know. Eventually I want to put something down in an apartment in London, hopefully—move out of my mom’s house.
I’ve heard London real estate is really expensive.
COOKE: It’s so expensive and I’ve not actually had time for two years to be able to just take the time get somewhere and move all my stuff.
When do you film Season 3?
COOKE: October. We got a while.
Is it a big finale?
COOKE: It’s very… it’s both, you know. It’s very subtle but the stuff that you find out is major.
What’s the comedy you’re doing in June?
COOKE: It’s called Me, Earl and the Dying Girl. I play the dying girl, it’s Indian Paintbrush directed by Alfonso Gomez-Rejon. And it’s about a guy who goes through high school being very under the radar, not really forming relationships, and then he befriends a girl that has leukemia and it’s how she basically ruins his life.
For more on The Quiet Ones: